When the California Summer is in full swing, treating your reservoir for algae blooms becomes critical. We are approaching triple-digit weather, and, in this state, that means the heat is here to stay. The heat also means that large algae bloom in stagnant bodies of water like reservoirs can happen seemingly overnight. If contaminants such as this find their way into your irrigation system, this may have an affect on your crop yield.
Warm Weather and Algae Bloom
The summer months are the most critical in agricultural water treatment. Algae does not need extreme heat to facilitate growth, but it sure helps. Warm water presents a favorable environment to these pesky life forms because it allows for better movement through the water and to the surface. It also gives the algae the chance to reproduce quickly. This is why you may check in on your reservoir on a Tuesday to see it fairly clean and clear only to return on Thursday to see a thick layer of algae across a good portion of the reservoir’s surface.
The problems begin when algae start to make their way into your irrigation system and ultimately, affect your irrigation performance. You may first start to see your irrigation filters increase in pressure and decrease in flow rate. This is manageable in cooler weather as your treatment provider can remediate the problem on sight. As the bloom grows, however, the filtration stations can become clogged. Clogging prevents these devices from doing their job properly, leading contaminates to make their way into your actual irrigation lines.
Micro-irrigation Line Plugging
Again, clogging or plugging is your main issue. Once in your drip lines, the algae continue to populate, creating a film of biofouling throughout your lines. This will eventually plug your riser screens or emitters. Plugged riser screens and emitters mean that your crops, which are already being tested by the hot weather and drought restrictions, will receive inadequate irrigation.
There are various ways to treating a reservoir for an algae bloom. The most common is to shock your drip lines or even your reservoir with oxidizing chemistry. At that point, however, the damage caused by loss of irrigation via plugged emitters has already been done. A thirsty crop is a low-yielding crop.
Prevention and Maintenance
Preventative treatments can save you time and money. Consider opting for reservoir treatments on a regular schedule instead of waiting for the inevitable to occur. By treating your reservoir for algae bloom at the beginning of the growing season, in the middle of the season, when heat is about to hit its peak, and finally, at the end of the season, you can finally beat the heat.
The cutting edge is thin for a reason. Dober Smart Release technology is not the newest technology on the market, but it is one of the most life-changing for growing business. In this dry-chemistry application, you may find financial freedom in pellet form.
The benefit is in the application. As opposed to traditional liquid chemical, Dober Smart Release is packaged as dry pellets coated in polymer. When the pellets are introduced to water, the coating slowly dissolves over 30 days, allowing the perfect amount of the chemical to treat the system at all times. A liquid chemical must be applied as needed and any number of factors can result in too much or too little chemical being introduced
Working with your Budget
The guesswork associated with this method requires that your budget must factor in additional chemicals in the event that you do run out before expected. Adversely, you may have now allocated far too much of your budget to a chemical that does not need to be purchased. When you know what you are working with, you retain control. When using Dober Smart Release, you know exactly how much chemical you need every month. You know exactly what number will be behind that dollar sign, every time.
The same principle applies to labor costs as well. Liquid chemistry means that all employees who interact with the chemicals must be hazmat certified. Certifying employees or hiring employees who are already certified becomes extra overhead. It also limits your ability to utilize your entire team effectively. The large drums liquid chemistry is transported in also means a greater risk of injury to your employees and associated costs if a work-place injury occurs as an employee hurts themselves during transportation. Liquid chemistry also carries the risk of a leak or spill. Not only can this become a health hazard, but it also disrupts daily operations.
Dober Smart Release carries none of these risks. The small dry-chemical pellets come packaged in mesh bags that are transported in 12–25-pound boxes. Your employees will not be straining themselves as they apply the chemical, nor will they risk their health if a problem does occur. Any trained employee can handle applications without PPE or extra gear. You have opened up a surplus of opportunity in your workforce simply by eliminating the risk.
There are many reasons to consider Dober Smart Release. For us, risk management is the tip of the iceberg. Walk the cutting edge and ask us if Dober Smart Release is the next step for your cooling system. Your budget, and your future, will thank you.
At Meras Water Solutions we are dedicated to helping our community by offering alternatives to traditional treatment options and keeping our customers up to date on the latest innovations in water treatment. We are here to help you make the best choice for your organization and today, one of those options addresses some of the most serious worries in our community. Dober Smart Release is the answer to the question you may not realize you need to ask.
Eco-Friendly and Safe Solution
Smart Release is a dry chemical delivery system that is revolutionizing the way cooling water treatment is accomplished. By utilizing state-of-the-art technology in dry-chemical application, Smart Release is able to provide an eco-friendly, safe, and cost-effective solution while increasing product quality in the process. This technology bypasses many of the most difficult issues posed by traditional liquid treatment options.
For decades, the only known way to keep a cooling tower efficient and free from setbacks, such as corrosion, scale deposition, and biofilm growth, has been to treat each tower with gallons of liquid chemicals. This liquid chemical system’s use of toxic materials is often considered outdated as are the risks of chemical leaks and hazardous working conditions for employees posed by traditional treatment methods.
The Application Process
The differences and benefits between traditional treatment and Smart Release are not in the chemicals but in how the chemicals are applied. Smart Release Technology comes as dry chemicals packed into small pellets encased in a polymer coating that dissolves over the course of 30 days. They offer many of the same reliable chemicals that have been in use for decades by reputable water treatment suppliers in an easier to transport and user-friendly package. The smaller packets allow for better budgeting of chemicals and labor due to the user’s ability to gauge chemical use and the fact that there is no need to be Hazmat certified to handle it. Additionally, Smart Release feeder systems have a small footprint, allowing users to use their space more efficiently.
The biggest pull of this technology is the most important. An institution that makes the switch to Dober Smart Release Technology can expect to see its space transform into a safer and healthier environment for employees and visitors alike. The pellets packaging weighs only between 12-25 pounds, reducing the risk of physical strain on employees, while also reducing the potential for hazardous spills. Virtually eliminating spills of chemicals is one of the best steps an organization can take as they grow and adapt to new technology. Better yet, it can be accomplished without sacrificing the comfort of knowing that your cooling tower is receiving scale, corrosion, and biocide protection.
Now is the time to take the step forward and utilize the latest tools that will make cooling towers safer and easier to maintain. Dober Smart Release – It is the smart choice.
Agriculture water treatment service technicians leave no surprises when managing your field. In the world of agriculture water treatment farm managers are often left wondering exactly what their agriculture water treatment service technicians did during their time in the fields and confused about the resulting data they receive. At Meras Water Solutions, we never want to leave our customers in the dark. So, allow me to invite you on a simple walk through your own fields with one of our agriculture water treatment service technicians. We want to show you why you are in good hands with us.
As our service team enters your field, they make a physical inspection of the crops and wetting patterns in the soil. Are there dry leaves in the middle of an irrigation set? Is the bark of the tree’s brittle or unhealthy? Are the wetting patterns consistent with the spacing of the emitters? Any abnormalities are noted and investigated further. We aim to get to know each block as well as you do so that we can assess your crop’s health accurately.
When we reach the system, we are scheduled to service, we first ensure that the micro-irrigation system is active and running. Then, we inspect the physical components for any breakage or leaks. Everything from the flow switch to the registers is carefully observed. We also test your flow rate and check if a distribution uniformity (DU) has been performed. We usually schedule an initial DU to get a base score of your irrigation system.
Distribution Uniformity (DU) is extremely important to your operations. This test allows us to get an overview of your system’s health easily and accurately. It tells us exactly how irrigated water is being applied across your field indicating if there is a plugging issue, a leak, or any other abnormality that could potentially prove fatal to your crops. We aim to see a Distribution Uniformity (DU) score of >90 to ensure that your system is optimized. It also serves as a baseline measurement that we can compare later data to as your season progresses.
Once testing is complete, an agriculture water treatment service technician measure your chemical levels. We compare the current ratio of chemicals to the prescription rate that was developed for your unique farm by your sales representative. This is also when we validate that the chemical ratio is optimal for the current stage your crop is in or recommend appropriate changes.
Micro- Irrigation hose inspection
Now, we physically inspect multiple hose-ends at regular intervals in your micro-irrigation system. By opening the hose ends and allowing irrigation water to collect in a clean, white cup, we can inspect it for biofilm and debris. Impurities can mean a host of issues that we address before they begin to affect your crops. It can also indicate to us that we should adjust chemical application rates.
Before we prepare to leave your field, we inspect on-sight chemical drums. We replenish any supply that is low to anticipate supply issues. If we do not have the specific chemical in the amount you need on hand, we schedule a chemical service drop-off as soon as possible.
Drip Service Report
Lastly, our technicians fill out a full report or DSR. This report allows us to document our visit and gathered data all in one place. This data can then be used to adjust your chemical deliveries, inform your testing schedule, and validate our agriculture water treatment plan. This is an at-a-glance report that details product and water usage, chemical levels and other miscellaneous notes and observations that the service technician finds useful.
The route we take as we exit your fields is purposeful. We travel in the opposite direction than we entered if possible so that we can continue our visual inspection of your fields. Once again, we watch for signs of irrigation issues and unhealthy crops. Here and there, we also take a moment to appreciate the amount of demanding work and dedication that goes into keeping these vast fields healthy and thriving. For us, it is a testament to our partnership and the good we can do when we work together.
Meras field technicians walk in step with you for a reason. We look at your fields as one of our own and we treat it as such. With us, you will never be left wondering because we make it a priority to take the worry about your irrigation system off your plate, not off your mind.
Cocooned between rolling peaks on either side, the city of Gonzales sits like an emerald jewel. The produce grown here outnumbers the people 1,000 to 1 and you are more likely to catch sight of an idling tractor far off in the fields than gridlock traffic. It is green as far as the eye can see and the aroma of sun-warmed tomatoes and fresh-cut broccoli fills the air.
Our technicians walk up and down these fields, their feet clad in hard-rubber boots. Their expert gazes run over the sprawling greenery, taking in every detail. Usually, this particular stretch of land is serviced by one or two people, but today they are working in a much larger team because they have an important job to do. Today is 21 days before these growers plan to harvest.
Testing and Metrics
In California, the FDA does not require that growers test their water. Growers are, instead, governed by individual entities, such as the Leafy Green Association (LGMA). The LGMA specifically was formed in 2007 in response to a spinach E. coli outbreak in 2006 wherein 200 people became ill. An LGMA certification is extremely important to growers who have or wish to place their produce on the shelves of large grocery chains. They use that leverage to set standards, or metrics, to ensure safe, healthy produce makes it to consumers. (Ward,2020)
These metrics are in a constant state of change as technology and the science around water-borne pathogens evolve. Of the 430 checkpoints of an LGMA audit, 100 pertain to irrigation. A quarter of those checkpoints specifically pertain to treated water. Your water treatment provider often offer guidance to ensure that each of these metrics are met. (Ward, 2020)
Many of these checkpoints are audited on this day when growers are tasked with treating all water being sourced from open-air bodies, such as reservoirs. The purpose of this treatment is to ensure that the water being delivered to the soon-to-be-harvested produce via overhead sprinkler systems does not exceed standard LGMA water requirement. The LGMA requires that a minimum of 3, 100 ml samples taken 2 of 3 must be non-detect for generic E.coli and 1 must not indicate a microbial load of greater than 10 MPN generic E.coli. All 3 must be 99 MPN or less for Total Coliforms or an adequate log reduction of Total Coliform as compared to an untreated source water sample. (Ward, 2020)
The treatment can vary between growers and crops. For this particular grower, we are treating tomato plants being irrigated by overhead sprinklers, fed by a reservoir. As such, they have opted to utilize calcium hypochlorite, an oxidizer. Other options include sodium hypochlorite, potassium hypochlorite, and PAA. All of these chemicals work to oxidize any and every cause of turbidity, including non-invasive matter. The treatment is pushed through the system within minutes of reaching the irrigation sprinklers. It is now time to test the water that is finally reaching the field.
Our resident food safety expert, Garrett Dana, has already inspected the system and has noticed some modifications that the grower has made. In the back of his head, he files the observation away in case he needs it. Now, he crouches low to the ground and watches the irrigation sprinklers rise in the last block of fields on the docket today. With a 10 mL glass vial in his hand, he approaches carefully until he is within arm’s reach. He places the vial in the pressurized stream, which sends a spray of water towards him. When the vial is properly filled, he moves away with ease.
Garrett’s colleague is on hand with a plain white packet containing a powdered chemical, dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase (DPD). They join each other at the tailgate of the truck looking out at the produce grown in Salians Valley, Garrett empties the packet into the vial. Then, he shakes it. As the water agitates, it begins to change color. Slowly but surely, the once totally clear liquid is a rosy pink.
“That’s not what we’re looking for,” Garrett says, sliding the vial into a pocket-sized device he had produced from the truck’s cab.
It is a colorimeter. With it, they should be able to analyze the exact shade the DBP has turned the water. This shade corresponds with a range of residual chemicals that can be detected in the already-treated water.
Garrett is right; the water should be a much darker pink. The low residuals indicate that the mix of oxidizers being run through the system is not sufficient. The entire block of crops is about to fail. That is unacceptable.
The team immediately transitions into a new mindset: remediation. Garrett hops on the phone and lets his contact at the main pump know that the readings came back at a much lower number than expected. If they cannot find the cause of the discrepancy and remedy it within 24 hours, this grower’s LGMA certification may be on the line. One by one, he runs through the list of common reasons for such a low residual return.
First, he instructs his colleague at the water source to visually assess it. If there are obvious signs of debris or an algae bloom, they may not have pushed enough chemistry to properly treat the water. This would mean that the oxidizers are not sufficient enough to kill bacteria and still may be present in the final sample.
Second, Garrett scans the wide-open fields for the telltale halo of water on the horizon. This could indicate that there has been a breach in one of the underground pipes. If the system is losing water, it is also losing chemistry. Again, a cause for low residuals.
Finally, he sends a technician to investigate a hunch. Within minutes, he gets the call. The technician explains that he agrees with Garrett’s theory that the growers had modified their system to accommodate a spacing issue. In doing so, they had placed the flow meter, the device that analyzes distribution uniformity (DU), too close to the paddle mechanism that allows for accurate measurement. The three-foot clearance that is standard has been reduced by over a foot. Due to this modification, the water that had previously flowed without hindrance was back flowing into the paddle after hitting the container’s siding. The meter was reading a much lower flow rate than it was delivering in reality. Therefore, we had pushed a lower rate of treatment than needed.
Garrett instructs the technician to recalibrate. He gets the notification that the chemistry has been readjusted and we wait. Finally, he approaches the sprinkler once again, this time with a new vial and an unopened packet of DPD. He is already giving the water a vigorous shake by the time he makes it back to the truck. All eyes are on the tiny container as it began to change.
“Now, that’s it,” he says holding up the container of dark pink liquid.
The colorimeter confirms his evaluation. The numbers are sitting comfortably within an acceptable range. He nods at his colleague who takes one more sample to confirm. These tomatoes will be sitting on grocery shelves very soon. From the moment of the initial test to the moment of success, only ten minutes have passed.
Communication is Key
Garrett’s last step is to give the field manager of the produce grown in Salians Valley a call. They go through each block, one by one, and discuss the preliminary test results. Garrett makes him aware of the remediation and explains the need to take the system modification into account the next time treatment is administered. They agree on a plan and he documents it carefully. With him, communication is the foundation for a better experience for both the growers and his technicians.
The team packs up their samples and heads to an off-site lab where they will be further analyzed. Today, one more step has been completed in this grower’s season. With an LGMA certification, they are confident that their produce will nourish the end-consumer, not make them sick. At the end of the day, that shared goal is what brings us to your fields and keeps us there through many seasons more.
Sections of this article have been revised for accuracy on (1/6/21). For up-to-date information on LGMA metrics and more, visit
A. Ward, personal communication, December 21, 2020
Horsfall, Scott. LGMA Audit Data Released on New Water Requirements. California LGMA, 30 September 2020, https://lgma.ca.gov/news/audit_data_water. Accessed 1 October 2020.
California LGMA. (2020) Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines: For the Production and Harvest of Lettuce and Leafy Greens. https://lgmatech.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/CA-LGMA-Metrics-August-2020_Final_Clean_9-18-20.pdf
Garrett Dana, Food Safety and Water Treatment Specialist
As far as water treatment goes, food safety happens to be the highest priority these days. As LGMA and other food safety organizations evolve and increase industry standards, we are beginning to see a wider variety of procedures and chemicals in use. When deciding how you are going to send the cleanest, safest produce to buyers possible, it is important that you are aware of your options.
The treatment mandated by LGMA, 21 days prior to harvest, is done through the process of oxidation. A variety of chemicals can be used. The most common of these are calcium hypochlorite, sodium hypochlorite, potassium hypochlorite, and PAA. Each of these chemicals function by attacking and killing contaminants in your irrigation systems. The issue is that none of these chemicals offer targeted attacks. Instead, its energy is allocated to all contaminants, such as turbidity, that may be swept into open-air water sources. These contaminants do not increase your odds of testing positive for E. coli or other coliforms.
We choose to utilize chlorine dioxide, which is a bacteria-focused oxidizer. The choice on our part is intentional:
- It targets harmful contaminants, making it a much more efficient vehicle to use.
- This chemical has a wide PH range, allowing the chemistry to operate in a wide variety of water qualities.
- It is also unique in that it can be used by both conventional and organic growers. Chlorine Dioxide fits within the organic use restrictions.
- The product is generated on-site so you can ensure the oxidizing agent has not deteriorated from environmental elements.
Though all growers must adhere to this timeline, many choose to treat their water above and beyond the standard. We call these growers our Rockstar growers for a reason. You too can be a Rockstar by:
- Treating your water at all points of your growing cycle, not just the mandatory 21 days before harvest.
- Verifying microbial water quality on a set cycle and at varying points throughout your system.
It is more important than ever to know what is going into your water and why. Our technicians strive to provide not only that knowledge but also with the ease of mind that comes with knowing we are tirelessly working for you. Together, we can create a cleaner, healthier harvest.
Marco Hurtado – Industrial Division Manager Meras Water Solutions
A proper cooling tower lay-up is a key function for the longevity of your system. Protecting your cooling systems is an important, full-time job, year-round. This is true across the board, including industries such as packing sheds and cold storages, who take their cooling systems “off-line” as the production season comes to an end and the colder months begin to approach. Why is this? Cooling systems are a dynamic environment where large-scale dysfunction, such as mineral scaling, metallurgical corrosion, and microbial fouling, can occur, even when the system is on stand-by. For this reason, it is critical that a proper chemical treatment program is put into place, including plans for a lay-up procedure at the end of your active season.
During the warm operating months, you and your water treatment provider spend a large amount of time and effort to run tight chemistry and water parameters to prevent scale, corrosion, and microbiological fouling. Unfortunately, all of this hard work and effort can be in vain for protecting your cooling systems
if that same care is not put into protecting your system during the stand-by season. To combat this, we can implement a lay-up procedure, also referred to as a winterization procedure, wherein we prepare your system to be placed in standby mode for an extended time.
As your systems sit idle, they run the serious risk of undergoing serious corrosion and microbiological fouling. These risks can lead to other issues, such as:
- Increased operational costs
- Increased utility costs
- Decreased equipment longevity
If cooling water corrosion inhibitors are not consistently and accurately maintained, metal surfaces become susceptible to pitting and accelerated corrosion. Water conditions in offline systems can also loosen iron oxide particles and create further complications in strainers, pumps, and spray nozzles. Furthermore, a stagnant, wet environment with the proper amount of nutrients and anaerobic bacteria can lead to biofilm formation on your cooling system surfaces. Such organic contamination can also contribute to your corrosion rates and will create concerning inefficiencies when you start up your system once again.
When it comes to properly shutting down and storing your cooling systems, specific steps must be taken to ensure that your equipment is protected and ready for the following season. Before performing a lay-up procedure, you must follow a two-step process to begin removing dissolving suspended solids from your cooling tower. The first step involves lowering your cycles of concentration and the second step involves chemically shocking the system to address any foulants that may remain. Once your cooling system has undergone this first part, you are now prepared for a lay-up.
A lay-up can take two forms: dry or wet. A dry lay-up means that you are emptying out your cooling system and sealing it shut once it is properly dried out. A wet lay-up means you are leaving water in your cooling system during the stand-by season. While a dry lay-up is usually recommended for long-term storage, a wet lay-up is recommended for short-term storage. In today’s industry, you can find a variety of product offerings that are specifically designed for this sort of protocol.
You work hard to keep your system running most of the year. Ensure that that valuable time and effort will not go down the drain by staying one step ahead. Lay-up your system today so that you can begin your active season with a running start.
If your stand-by season is approaching and you are interested in protecting your cooling systems the right way, feel free to contact us for a free site visit. We are always happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction.
Marco Hurtado, Meras Water Solutions Industrial Division Manager
The water that runs through evaporative condensers has one of the most important jobs in your facility. It keeps your stored goods fresh and safe; it ensures that packing and distribution moves along with minimal interruption, and it does so with little involvement from you – for a short amount of time at least.
Whether you know it or not, that water may be harboring issues not immediately obvious. These issues, when left unaddressed, translates to more waste and less efficiency. Studies show that as little as .005 inches of scaling on the surface your ammonia coils increase the energy required to transfer heat by 5%. This number compounds linearly, forcing your systems to work harder as contaminates grow. Slowly but surely, your most important asset can become a costly headache.
Identify water that is working against you, rather than for you? Submitting a water sample to a professional lab for analysis is a great way to know exactly what you are up against. You can also assess the general condition of your own water. These simple steps are the first in the right direction.
- Visual: Look at your system. Is there any obvious scaling or slime on the heat exchange surfaces? Can you spot algae beginning to bloom? Discoloration or murkiness is a sure sign there is an impending issue.
- Odor: Biofouling may have a distinct if faint smell. A musky or spoiling-like odor often accompanies other signs that there may be hidden microfouling.
- Touch: Water riddled with impurities, such as biofouling, often has a soft, scummy feel to it. A simple swipe across the surface of the tank can give you a ton of insight.
- Performance analysis: Dip slides are a simple tool that can reveal a huge amount of information. These small, economical slides are dipped into the water and placed in an 86-degree environment for 48 hours. They then give you HPC readings and a general observation of the bacteria your system is harboring. Contact Meras water solutions to schedule a technician to perform this analysis for you.
Let us say that you have assessed your water and it has unacceptable levels of minerality and/or microfouling. If your water displays characteristics that can lead to scaling, it may be time to re-evaluate your chemical program and the setting established for your controller. For many, the solution to biofouling is to load your system up with bleach or other biocides and hope that, this time, you caught it before the fouling got out of control. Many facilities do exactly this every summer when temperatures rise and bacteria begins to take hold, making shocking your system a normal procedure for some.
By looking at the science behind your system, technicians can stop this cycle in its tracks – completely negating the need for extreme treatments that eventually lead to system failure due to biocide-resistant bacteria and corrosion. To accomplish this, they track data on your system regularly and anticipate your system’s unique patterns. In turn, you will see heightened heat transfer and less disruption to your operations.
Your water should never be your enemy. Instead, trust its care to experts. We are here to ensure that it is working for you and with you, every step of the way.
When I walk your fields or your orchards, I walk it as if I were taking a stroll through my own. I watch the ground, scanning for dry areas, and if I catch an irrigation event, I open a hose-end to let the water run into my hands. How long does it take for the water to run clear and free of bio-film and other contaminates? Do the emitters reflect the same flow rate that I can observe in the field? I am looking for what you do because I know exactly how valuable this plot of land is to you.
This basic respect is at the core of why the relationships my team and I cultivate with growers is unique. Our mode of operation takes into account the singular nature of your farm by addressing five basic steps that I believe ensures the best experience for us both:
- Getting to know your farm and prioritizing your needs. When we initially assess your farm, we are looking for your objectives as well as your limitations. It is our job to work within the goals we set together while maximizing your benefits. In other words, let’s get the best bang for your buck.
- Addressing plugging issues. Plugging is the number one reason your system may not be meeting expectations. When biofilm or scale begin to build up, it inhibits your flow rate, your DU is no longer hitting the percentage we are looking for, and your crops are missing out on nutrients. It is the most common issue for growers and our highest priority when getting your farm up to standard.
- Streamlining the process. Our systems are great but it is your technician that makes maintaining your water system the most effortless aspect of the growing season. We are there to catch possible issues before they become one and make ourselves accessible if an emergent situation does arise.
- Careful documentation. Each time I, or someone on my team, stops by your farm we document our findings, and that data is immediately reported to you. Together, we come up with a gameplan. By tracking everything from changes in water quality to algae blooms in your reservoirs, to dips in DU, we have a foundation on which to plan longer-term goals.
- Planning for the future. This is when all of that data we collected and the observations we made as we serviced your systems come into play. Sitting down on a regular basis with you is essential to explore these trends and explain their causes. Now we get to design your farm’s future.
These steps are not the end-all, be-all in customer service. They are simply the building blocks of a relationship that will grow and evolve over the years, elevating your farm to a new level of functionality and efficiency. They are there so that you can rest easy knowing that there is one more person walking between your rows looking for dry areas.
Marco Hurtado, Industrial Division Manager
There are few things that a business owner hopes to find mystery in. Dealings with your water treatment provider are not one of them. I often receive phone calls from individuals who are simply fed up by the “closed-door” attitude of their current or previous providers. These complaints range from poor communication to missed orders. Most worrying is when I hear of a business receiving a service report that has no information as to when the technician came by their facility. When this happens, there is no way to confirm whether the technician was present onsite or not which can be frustrating on multiple fronts.
Here at Meras, we believe that when we enter a relationship with you and your business, we are entering into a partnership. This partnership relies on six basic expectations:
- Accessible information
We will keep you informed. Your service representative functions as a lifeline between you and your water system. They are there, not only to find solutions but also to provide comprehensive education on why these solutions fit your unique needs.
- Transparent and timely communication
Whether it be regular check-ins via phone, in-person updates at the beginning of inspection and service, or through email when discussing your service report, your representative is accessible to you at all times for updates and to answer any questions you may have.
- Thorough customization of your unique program
The scope of work, per the agreement in place, will be clear and meet your’ expectations at the get-go. We accomplish this by taking a thorough inventory of your equipment, needs, and history. The program that you and your representative develop together is meant to be as unique as your business is.
- Consulting and technical support
Your water treatment representative should help tackle water-related challenges that your systems may be experiencing as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Every milestone is to be met with full cooperation. In the event of an emergency, you and your representative should be working up a response plan in under two hours.
- Documented data and events
Clearly described and thorough documentation will be provided to develop a profile of historical data and critical events. We believe in treating your water system as a whole, not simply the symptoms.
- Management of inventory and feed equipment
You will not be running out of essential chemicals and your feed equipment will be in good operating conditions. We combat lapses in service by keeping careful inventory and scheduling maintenance, testing, and other services regularly.
Choosing a water treatment provider should feel like a sigh of relief. With us, you will walk away from each interaction knowing exactly what you are getting and why. Above all, you should rest easy with the knowledge that you are a priority and will be treated as such. Your business deserves nothing less.
As California enters yet another drought, concerns about water regulation and allocation have been heightened. It may feel like you are toe to toe with a giant at times like this but luckily, you are not fighting alone. We cannot always control the amount of water that your operation has access to, but we can ensure that every ounce of water you have makes it to your thirsty crops.
You can take three steps that will give you the tools you need to defeat this drought and come out on top.
Distribution Uniformity Testing
Regular Distribution Uniformity (DU) testing. Meras Water Solutions has one of the most detailed DU testing programs in the state. This test allows your water treatment technician to assess the general health of your system, often catching instances of plugging or leaking in the earliest stages.
During a busy growing season, you cannot afford to disrupt irrigation events. Plugging in the main irrigation line, or worse, a leak can mean wasted water which is already in low supply. In this heat, crops need all the help they can get. Scheduling DU testing at regular intervals is much like scheduling a regular check-up with your doctor. It is an opportunity to anticipate future issues, treat current problems, and provide preventative care. This is the perfect time to ensure that DU testing is happing on your farm.
Proper chemical application. The quality of your water is just as important as the quantity. As the days get warmer and water becomes scarcer, biofouling becomes a much larger threat. You may be using groundwater that has not been treated. Or, you may be using water that has become warm, creating the perfect environment for bacteria to multiply and thrive.
Regular DU testing will often detect plugging that may occur due to the biofouling, but you can protect your water’s quality even further by ensuring that you are applying the correct chemicals at the proper rate. Your water treatment technician can guide you through this process at any point of your season.
Soil treatment. Even if your entire system is working at optimal levels, you may run into issues with different soil types. High temperatures can translate into compacted soil as bicarbonates and salts in your soil profile begin to accumulate. They bind to one another, creating a layer of soil that is so hard and compact that it will not allow water and nutrients to penetrate the roots of the plants.
Once your Agriculture Water Specialist becomes aware that your crops may be suffering from soil compaction, there are options to help break that bond to loosen the soil and allow for penetration. Either way, it is important to provide treatment quickly and efficiently to keep your season on track.
Water is precious this time of year and so is your time. Take these three steps to ensure that your irrigation system is up to the task of delivering the water that is provided. This drought may be tough but we at Meras are tougher. Let us fight for you!
Larissa Winder – Independent technical writer
Very early in the morning, water treatment expert, Dan Lindberg, walks between the rows of a 60-acre parcel of an 845-acre ranch. The sun has barely shown its face over the horizon and the crows have yet to settle into the barren vines to picked at what remaining dried fruit that may have been long forgotten by harvest. He carefully watches the wetting patterns spreading out from each emitter. The perfect V shape of moist earth, evenly spaced at regular intervals, tells him that the system is working as it should, at least for now.
It is late September. The last harvest was a week ago and the grower is gearing up to close down their system for the winter season. From now until early spring, this field will only receive sporadic irrigation as needed and the system itself will sit mostly stagnant. Dan makes his way towards the system for a final check. He takes note of the amount of water and chemicals used since last visit and the general health of the system to report to the grower in full.
His team and the grower’s management are in contact often but at this time of the year, Dan makes sure that he and the grower are on the same page and that they are as informed as possible. They discuss everything from DU trends to possible issues in the future as the ranch expands. The grower is happy to hear about the progress Dan’s team has made and the level of care they had shown the ranch at every turn. He shares that he has seen a return on investment in his field since Dan began treating his irrigation system.
Item by item, Dan and the grower analyze the efficiency of their irrigation system and build a plan for the next year. Dan’s technicians had noticed that certain times of the season during the hotter months and times when the aqueduct had more algae blooms than normal, that sections of the block would experience plugging on occasion, so he and the grower discuss adjusting their chemical ratio as well as introducing additional chemistry if needed at certain times of the season. They also decrease the amount of chemistry purchased to maximize savings before coming up with a maintenance plan. There is only one last item to discuss.
Would they consider winterizing their system this year?
Dan explains that the process is simple and cost-effective in the long run. He and his technicians would start by applying product prefilter to remediate the media in the sand media tanks, and everything down stream. They move on to applying chemistry on the other ranches, PAA (Peracetic Acid) and chlorine dioxide have worked well with this particular water source to the system as a whole. The chemistry will sit in the system for as long as possible, discouraging biofouling in the lines, and off-season contaminants. It is also meant to extend the longevity of equipment.
At the start of the next growing season, the system will be flushed. The oxidizers would be dumped from the system at once, revealing clean, ready-to-work lines. The grower can then hit the ground running without wasting time, money, and labor on remediating a system that has become plugged with biofilm or dealing with water that has been filled with worsening contaminants.
Considering the cost
The grower considers Dan’s advice carefully. He asks many thoughtful questions that Dan is able to answer in detail. They have worked together for a few years and he has yet to come across an issue, even at the start of his growing season. He trusts them. Still, though Dan’s winter sanitation proposal makes sense to prevent an issue come spring, he ultimately decides against winterizing the system since they have not experienced issues in the past. It is simply one more cost that he is unsure of.
Dan completely understands. Making decisions like this can be difficult, he knows that as long as he is able to offer them accurate, usable information to help produce a good crop, he has done his job. After small talk about winter projects and tasks around the ranch, he gives them the rest of their data before checking the vineyard one last time and drives out. The sun is fully overhead now, and the wetting patterns are no longer visible as they were when the sun was rising. He hopes the next time he visits; they will look exactly as they did that morning.
Start of the growing season
Fast forward to early March, Dan receives a call from this grower. The grower fired up his irrigation system for the first time on this block to check for leaks. There is a problem. Within 24 hours, his team is onsite. The first thing he does is crouch down to look between the trellises of bare, brittle vines. The faint wetting patterns are concerning, to say the least.
The perfect V’s of moisture are few and far between. Instead, it looks as though many of the emitters are only dribbling enough water to create two to three-inch halos. It comes as no surprise that when he checks that pressure gauge, it has extremely high readings. The flow rate though is what seals the deal. The reading is showing a staggering decrease of 350 gallons less than the recorded rate this time the previous year.
He suspects that there is a major plugging issue, most likely due to a combination of unusually high temperatures at the end of the growing season and the stagnation of a hibernating system – unfortunate consequences of the decision not to winterize.
While Dan mobilizes his team to do a full field evaluation and distribution uniformity test, Dan cuts open a hose-end and allows the water to pour into his palm. He can see, right away, that the water is cloudy. Specs of biological contaminants cling to his hand, even after he allows the water to slip between his fingers and to the ground. He peers into the hose and wrinkles his nose. The walls of the hose are covered in slimy biofouling. This is a remediation, and it needs to happen fast.
They shock the system with a custom mixture of chemistry. The oxidizers quickly get to work, cleaning up the biological contaminates, eating away at the unwelcome materials that are gathered around each important component of the system. The team carefully monitors the DU and flow rate. Both gradually begin to show much better numbers. Still, Dan knows the damage is done.
Pre-season irrigation audit
One by one, unsalvageable hoses and emitters are replaced with new ones. Employees who would otherwise be busy preparing for the growing season are tasked with walking the rows of vineyards, watching for leaks, or plugging. Valuable time and labor are expended but without clean lines, nothing can progress so there is no choice. Eventually, the system is moving along as it should – but at what cost?
The remediation takes place over the rest of the scheduled irrigation event. Between labor costs, replacing tubing and emitters, Dan estimates that the entire event cost the grower exponentially more than his initial quote for winterization. He supposes, at the end of the day, the price will be paid, the only question is when and how much.
Next year, the grower tells Dan that there is no question, as a prevention measure, they will be putting their irrigation system to sleep properly. Winterization is no longer an option when the alternative is so expensive.
This time, Dan walks the field in the evening. Once again, the sun is low in the sky and casts the perfect golden glow for him to see the wetting patterns at his feet. He smiles, each one is as perfect as the last. For now, that will not change.
The E. coli outbreak of 2006 changed the game for California farmers. Fear instantly began to play a large part in buying patterns from customers up to direct buyers. An overhaul of our concept of food safety was imminent. In response, California farmers began to set stricter guidelines, effectively ensuring that only clean, safe produce make it to consumer’s plates.
The LGMA (California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement) formed in 2007, and other food safety organizations have quickly become the standard to which you, the growers, are held. Major buyers now require these certifications, cementing them as the industry standard and a force of change within. Treating your water to meet these metrics has become one of the most important aspects of your harvesting season – and the most expensive.
How do we meet LGMA guidelines?
The 2006 outbreak prompted an investigation, leading to the discovery that O157, known more commonly as E.coli, is often delivered through overhead sprinkler irrigation systems from Type B, or open-air sources. To combat this danger, a new standard metric has been set. Since 2018, ranches have been expected to meet a criterion of 2 of 3 samples testing as non-detect for generic E. coli and 1 testing at no greater than 10 MPN for generic E. coli. All 3 samples must not test greater than 99 MPN for Total Coliform or an adequate log reduction of TC based on an untreated source sample must be documented. In addition, all water systems must be tested and treated within 21 days of harvest in order to verify these metrics. (Ward, 2020)
A variety of chemicals can be used to treat the water at its source. The most common are oxidizers such as calcium hypochlorite, sodium hypochlorite, potassium hypochlorite, and PAA. These chemicals work to oxidize any and every cause of turbidity, including non-invasive matter. We at Meras, however, choose to utilize a bacteria-specific oxidizer called chlorine dioxide which targets harmful bacteria rather than inane debris.
Why do you need us?
All growers have access to these chemicals and the ability to apply them. Hoping to meet these new guidelines on your own, however, is much more complicated. Without in-depth knowledge and constant monitoring, chances of failure to meet the new guidelines – resulting in unfavorable test results at the time of harvest, is high. This failure throws a very large, very expensive wrench into the process.
As a full-service provider, we not only offer testing and treatment, we complete the process from start to finish all so that you don’t have to. Our service includes detailed documentation and analytics, raising the efficiency of your entire operation. With us, you know that your harvest season will not culminate in a sudden halt and that you are certified for an ever-expanding list of big-name buyers.
Though the future of LGMA and other industry standards is unclear, there is no question that food safety will continue to be of the utmost importance. Your buyers are aware of that fact and we are here to ensure that you meet their expectations at every turn.
Sections of this article have been revised for accuracy on (1/6/2021). For up-to-date information on LGMA metrics and more, visit https://lgmatech.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/CA-LGMA-Metrics-August-2020_Final_Clean_9-18-20.pdf[LW1]
A. Ward, personal communication, December 21, 2020
California LGMA. (2020) Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines: For the Production and Harvest of Lettuce and Leafy Greens. https://lgmatech.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/CA-LGMA-Metrics-August-2020_Final_Clean_9-18-20.pdf